Parliament Video: Speaking out against anti-Asian racism and calls to action on systematic racism

On May 11, 2021, MP Jenny Kwan stood in the House to recognize Asian Heritage Month, to speak out against anti-Asian racism, and to call on the federal government to take action against systemic racism without delay

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, racism and structural inequity existed even before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has shone a light for many on the serious inequality in our country.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been public actions and calls against anti-Asian violence and racism; mass public protest movements against police violence, and to say that Black lives matter; rallies to call for justice for migrant workers; and people gathering in the streets to protest the resource extraction and development taking place on unceded indigenous land without free, prior and informed consent, and calling for a true reconciliation that dismantles colonial institutions and laws.

Transformative changes are needed in our laws, governments and institutions to reconcile and make reparations for Canada's colonial history, to root out systemic discrimination and to eliminate the root causes of poverty and inequality. Equality of rights is supposed to be at the core of Canadian law, as enshrined in our charter, yet this is not the reality for far too many people.

People do not have equal access to housing. There is no national rights-based approach to housing. There is no national urban indigenous housing plan that is by indigenous, for indigenous. Law enforcement disproportionately affects Black and indigenous people. People living with addictions cannot access the health care that they need, and instead they are criminalized. People do not enjoy equitable access to supports for early intervention, mental health and addiction. The chronic underfunding and defunding of these services is a sample of the systemic racism that exists within government.

Canada must take bold action to tackle systemic racism and recognize that racial disparities in education, learning, employment, food and water security, health and child welfare, housing and homelessness, income and social assistance, immigration and newcomer settlement, justice and policing, and poverty are persistent and real.

To improve safety for members of our community, we must invest in people. Canada can afford to have a guaranteed livable income so that everyone will have access to income, food security, safe housing and safe transportation. The Atlanta incident is a reminder of the intersections and the deadly effects of not only racism, but also misogyny. We must also address policy issues that increase people's vulnerability to violence, including fighting against the stigma that sex workers face.

While we are often tempted to think that racism is a problem confined to the United States, the truth is that racist verbal and physical attacks on Asian Canadians are on a sharp rise. According to Bloomberg, Vancouver is the Asian hate capital of North America. In Vancouver, anti-Asian hate crimes have gone up 717%. Every attack is aimed at stripping us of our sense of safety and dignity. It is a clear message to say that we are not wanted and that we do not belong.

I am glad that the House of Commons unanimously adopted my motion that calls on the government to include anti-Asian racism in Canada's anti-racism strategy and in all anti-racism policies and programs. However, we need to ensure that NGOs are provided the resources they need to help fight against Asian hate and provide support to victims. NGOs have the trust of, and relationships with, the people on the ground. They can break down cultural and language barriers, but they cannot do this from the side of their desks. Dedicated stable and predictable core funding, not just project funding, is needed to tackle this essential work.

I call on the government to take action to support the community."

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